‘We do work hard’ Stay-at-home moms defend their roles in wake of Ann Romney-Hilary Rosen comments

Brad Nettles/staff Stay-at-home mom Kathleen Gorman of Mount Pleasant, with her sons Tommy, 6 (left), and Sammy, 2. “Raising people to be the next generation is the most important thing you can do,” she said.

She could hardly avoid it, so Stacie Tonucci tuned in this week to the latest political flap, this time over stay-at-home mom Ann Romney’s grasp of the economy.

She watched as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tried to coax an apology from Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen for saying Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life” and hasn’t dealt with economic issues like the majority of women.

Tonucci, 48, said she is offended by any slight of stay-at-home moms because she pretty much has been one for 11 years, raising three children ages 12, 7 and 6. She does work every other weekend from home as a triage nurse who fields after-hours medical phone calls.

She was visiting the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry from Charlotte on Friday, kids in tow. She is not a dedicated supporter of GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, leaning toward Rick Santorum before he dropped out of the race, but plans to vote Republican regardless.

Tonucci does not believe Rosen is truly sorry for her remarks made Wednesday, in spite of making a public apology the next day. However, she thinks the public has long memories for perceived insults. She does.

“I remember Hillary Clinton saying ‘I could’ve just stayed home and baked cookies.’ ... In my mind, the Democratic Party is less respectful of women who stay at home,” Tonucci said.

Pamela Middleton, 45, is as a housekeeper at a hotel in North Charleston. Her three children are teenagers now, but when they were younger Middleton couldn’t afford day care or a baby-sitter. Taking off work to care for her children was a difficult choice, but Middleton said she chose to do so because it was best for her family.

“A stay-at-home mom — that’s a lot of work. I didn’t get to just sit home and watch TV and eat and get fat. I had to work (at home) too,” Middleton said. “In reality, with the way the economy was even back then I really couldn’t afford to stay home, but I had to.”

Feminism has gotten “a little off track,” Tonucci said, so that “the choice that’s more respected is that you go to work and the choice to stay home is still considered part of the oppression of women. I think parents raising their children is the most important job that there is.”

Kathleen Gorman of Mount Pleasant shares that conviction. “Raising people to be the next generation is the most important thing you can do,” said the 28-year-old, a stay-at-home mom and home-schooler to three children, ages 7, 6 and 2.

Gorman has not been following the “Mommy Wars,” but has become disillusioned with politics in general over the past four years. She said she would vote for President Barack Obama if the election were held today, but only halfheartedly. “I don’t love him anymore. I was a lot more excited in the beginning.”

But the GOP doesn’t do anything for her either.

“The Republican Party has just been a clown show. I don’t have a great hope in politics saving the United States.”

Kristin Sparks of Chattanooga, Tenn., said she will support Romney because “he’s the best we’ve got.” The 31-year-old has two girls, a toddler and an infant, and hasn’t worked since the birth of the first one two years ago. Before that, she bought and sold houses, and eventually plans to return to work.

“I think it’s important for the mom to stay home until the kids go to school,” she said. “But it’s not for everyone.”

She was only vaguely familiar with the Ann Romney-Rosen flap. Taxes, not women’s issues, are her No. 1 concern in the presidential race. “I think it’s great that someone is defending the stay-at-home mom. But that’s not my vote.”

As for Ann Romney, “just because she’s never worked doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what’s going on,” Sparks said.

A self-described conservative Republican, 25-year-old Ciara Cope of Ladson is the mother of a boy, 7, and a girl, 4. She favors, or had favored, Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination. Cope knew nothing of the “mommy” salvo, yet was glad to hear of Romney’s defenders.

“We do work hard as stay-at-home mothers,” she said.

Cope and her husband didn’t want their children in day care, so they worked out an arrangement.

“He goes out and he is the breadwinner, and I get a percentage. It’s not a lot but I do keep up with the house and I do keep up with the kids and take care of other things. So it is a job like anybody else’s.”

At the same time, she acknowledged, “it’s not making money.”

Tonucci said neither party is smelling like a rose in the fray. She had already received an email from the Republican National Committee with a pitch to buy a coffee mug inscribed “Moms do work! Vote GOP.”

“I think both sides are exploiting it now,” Tonucci said.

Christina Elmore contributed to this report.